Demolish a 1963 Paul Rudolph Design?

An Orange County government center in Goshen, N.Y., designed in 1963 by Paul Rudolph at about the same time he was working on the Yale Art and Architecture Building, is threatened with demolition today.

But unlike his Yale building, there’s no architect of the caliber of Charles Gwathmey standing by to restore the landmark structure.

Instead, at least one local politician favors tearing it down and rebuilding anew

Vacant since Hurricane Irene slashed through the area in August 2011 and left leaks and water damage in its wake, the structure has been placed on the World Monuments Fund 2012 Watch List.

“It’s a touchstone in architectural history,” says Frank Sanchis, director of the United States Program for the World Monuments Fund.  “Rudolph didn’t do that many buildings, so what he did do deserves careful consideration.”

Orange County Executive Edward Diana disagrees, calling publicly called for it to be torn down.  “He’s convinced himself that it needs to be replaced,” Sanchis says.  “He’s been campaigning about it for a decade now – he says it’s dangerous and vacant.”

A grassroots organization called the Taxpayers of Orange County is opposed to the demolition, saying that renovation of the brutalist structure would save $40 to $50 million over tearing it down and rebuilding.  Renovations would run about $20 to $40 million, as opposed to $75 million for demolition and new construction.

Besides, argues Sanchis, this is the work of a major architect.  “Clearly, this is in the spirit of the specific kinds of buildings Rudolph is known for – it’s got his signature on it,” he says.  “In another 50 years it will be seen as a significant building, and if you obliterate it, it’ll be gone forever.”

Its fate could be determined as early as April 5, when 22 legislators – 10 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one independent – meet for a potential vote.

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